5. On your computer at home or at work, make “call friends” a standing appointment. Don’t have a computer? Keep a Post-it note on the phone, the bathroom mirror, the car dashboard, anywhere you’re likely to see it. Also make sure your friends’ phone numbers are programmed into your cell phone. Then call that friend when you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in line and chat for 10 minutes. Alternatively, schedule a standing once-a-month lunch — same time, same place.
6. Make time for friendships. Nothing makes closeness fade away than never talking with or seeing each other. While some bonds of friendships may be strong enough to span long silences, most aren’t. If you cherish a person’s friendship, make time for him or her, whether it’s just the occasional phone call or a weekly get-together.
7. Remember: A true friend doesn’t flee when changes occur. Nothing is sadder for new parents than to find that their single friends have abandoned them because of the baby. The sign of a good friend is one who stays true through it all — marriage, parenthood, new jobs, new homes, the losses. Just because situations change doesn’t mean the person has.
8. Make sure you aren’t being a burden to a friend. Friendships fade away if there isn’t an equilibrium between the give and the take. Be sensitive to how much your friend can and can’t offer you — be it time, energy, or help — and don’t step over the line. And vice versa: Friendships that drain you will not last. If a friendship is out of balance in this way, you’ll need to talk the situation through.
9. Sweat the small stuff. Yes, there are times when it doesn’t pay to sweat the details, but in a friendship, it’s the little things that count. Notice her new haircut. Remember to ask about her mother’s surgery or her daughter’s new baby. And if you’re truly a good friend, you’ll know when she needs some cheering up — a simple arrangement of flowers if you can afford it, a simple card or e-mail if you can’t. It really is the thought that counts.
10. Be a good listener. It can be the hardest thing in the world to do — to simply listen as he or she pours it all out or is seeking your advice or opinion. To be a better listener, follow this advice:
Maintain eye contact. Offer nods and murmurs that indicate you understand her point of view.
Don’t finish your friend’s sentences. If you catch yourself planning your response while your friend is still talking, gently remind yourself to focus on him.
Minimize distractions — don’t type, open mail, or watch television while you’re on the phone with your friend. Your friend will undoubtedly hear your disinterest in your responses.
Be careful with advice. Assume your friend wants to vent, not necessarily ask for a plan of action.
11. Be in her corner if she’s not there to defend herself. If you’re at a gathering at which someone mentions your friend disparagingly, defend her against gossip or criticism. Say, “Mary is my friend, and it makes me feel bad to hear you talk this way.” Sooner or later, news of your loyalty will travel back to her, and it will deepen your friendship.